Friday, 10 February 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 10 February 2017

Our Jacobean founder, Hugh Sexey would have been proud of this week’s School Production of Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ (written between 1604 and 1606), which was performed with such confidence and aplomb by our students. The power and raw emotion from the actors set the tone for the stunning performance and the lead, played by Jasmin Dennis, has been compared to Glenda Jackson’s take on the role in the West End. High praise indeed. The cast and crew have again produced a play which has further raised the bar for future productions - expectations will be high and the challenge even greater. From front of house to backstage, from the music to make up - everybody has an important part to play and they do it so well; a self-less and caring community wanting the best for each other. Setting high standards and challenging our students to do things differently is what we strive to do and ‘King Lear’ was no exception. The upcoming review in ‘What’s on Somerset’ (which I encourage you to read) sums it up well and reflects the commitment and passion our students and staff have for our special school. Drama continues to excel at Sexey’s and with Trinity Guildhall examinations on offer to our Sexeians and our partnership with the Youth Cinema Foundation, I am pleased to see Drama both at school and in the community, going from strength to strength. The summer production will be our interpretation of the hit musical ‘Bugsy Malone’ which should be a real treat and I’ve been asked to sit in the front row…

Speaking of community, a group of young Sexeians went to Sexey's Hospital on Monday to meet with the current Master, Canon Paul Jenkins, who gave them a tour of Sexey's Hospital, met with the residents and then presented us with a new school flag to continue our strong and healthy relationship, something our founder would be very proud of. We thank Canon Jenkins for his tireless support of the school and wish him well as he retires next month. His legacy will last for many years to come, both in school and in our community.
And so to half term – while the students are enjoying an early start to a well-deserved break, colleagues from Sexey's and schools from all over Somerset have come together today as a learning community to share best practice and to learn from one another in what works best in the classroom - over 1000 teachers in over 40 schools have been working closely together for the benefit of the next generation. Community on an even bigger scale and a privilege to be a part of.

The RBS Six Nations Rugby continues this weekend, and I will be watching the game tomorrow with our local community - all sorts of communities coming together for a variety of reasons on a local, national and international level; it can only be a good thing. I wish you all a pleasant and peaceful half term.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 3 February 2017

Last Friday saw the PSA put on a fabulous show when we had a great turnout for the PSA Annual Quiz in the Main Hall. The whole event was expertly compered by our very own Mr Keith Partridge and a team called ‘The B Team’ successfully won back the title! The atmosphere was competitive and at times you could hear a pin drop as the cogs were whirring incessantly; the food was delicious and there was plenty of fine cheese too courtesy of Barber’s. I cannot thank the PSA enough for all their hard work and the time they give up to organise such excellent events (the Spring Ball is next month) which raises important funds for our school - benefiting our students hugely in the long term. The Quiz will no doubt be back again next year, so get those thinking caps on and start revising!

It’s now only a week before the end of what has been a truly busy and eventful half term. Next week, our thespians tread the boards in Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ and I urge you all to come along and support this fine cast who have been rehearsing ‘come what may’ (that is in fact a quote from the bard himself). The U16 Girls' netball team triumphed in the Somerset Netball Competition at Westfield at the beginning of the week by winning all 5 of their matches convincingly and the U15 Girls’ Rugby training at Castle Cary RFC was a truly muddy affair and quite timely with the 6 Nations Rugby kicking off this weekend. The U13 Boys' Hockey at Holyrood also proved popular this week and we hope that boys' hockey gains momentum here at the school. 

During Lower School assembly we were treated to a scintillating performance of the Stranglers’ ‘Hanging Around’, by the 'Rock Scholars' who had everyone in awe. They will be next performing at Acoustic Night later this term, so do please come along and support them as well as all of our musicians. And finally we had the school Chaplain, Mr Richard Kelley, speak to the students about the importance of listening to one another and respecting each other’s opinion  – something we, politicians and world leaders can learn to do from time to time.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 27 January 2017

The January Blues should hopefully be over soon, but there has been a couple of nasty bugs doing the rounds. As a result staff absence has been particularly high at the moment, with many students also being unwell. The school is doing its utmost to ensure a subject-specialised teacher is covering teacher absence but, as some of the notifications from staff are being received by the school last-minute, this isn’t always possible. In these instances, lessons are covered by other members of teaching staff, and even when staff are unwell, they try hard to ensure work is set for their classes and that the lesson time is used productively (I have enjoyed teaching ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to Y9 and ‘Percentages’ to Y8 this week). We ask that you please bear with us whilst we are managing this challenge and also that you do not send your child to school if they are unwell. If your child is a boarder and they fall ill, it would be very much appreciated if you could arrange to collect them as soon as possible because the strain on the Health Centre is apparent. Sister Rosemary has had a baptism of fire this week and I thank her and other colleagues who have stepped in to support and I hope that over the exeat, staff and students will have the time to recuperate and will be back in school on Monday fighting fit.

My congratulations to the Y11 students who sat their Core Exams this week and conducted themselves with great maturity – I hope they found them challenging and rewarding and will learn from any mistakes they may have made. The results of these exams will be out in due course. It was refreshing too this week to hear the newly elected MYP for South Somerset, our very own Lower Sixth Former Katie Leeming speak at assembly about her hopes and aspirations as she embarks on her political career where she will debate issues in Parliament such as education, health, policing and Brexit, amongst others in this uncertain political world. I just hope that the next generation of leaders learn from the past, hold on to our cherished values and pave the way for a brighter future. Choose Education - which will be put to the test at tonight's PSA Quiz.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 13 January 2017

Welcome back to the start of a new Lent term and although the weather was due to turn this week, its ‘another day of Sun’ here at Sexey’s (the ‘Sun’ reference will become apparent in the days to come!), albeit there is quite a nip in the air. I trust that you all had a restful holiday (seems like such a long time ago) and are now settled into the rhythms and routines of the New Year. Over the festive period, the School was delighted to learn that Sixth Former Katherine Leeming was appointed to the UK Youth Parliament representing South Somerset after a hard fought campaign – a tremendous achievement and we wish her well as she speaks for the youth of today on issues such as education, the health service, Brexit and the current political turmoil we are experiencing. The Sexey’s Ski Trip to Kitzbuhel last term went well too and the skiers had a great time with many improving their skiing (and language) skills – preparations are already underway for next December’s trip. Do watch out for further details as I am sure places will be snapped up very quickly indeed.

The Lent term is packed (I wouldn’t have it any other way!) with plenty of activities in and around school – from sport, drama, music, art, charity fund raising and PSA events. Well done to the 6th form who sat their Trial Exams this week (A-level Art and Photography exams continue next week) in preparation for public exams in the summer; university offers are also coming in thick and fast too. The drama department is busy rehearsing for Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ which takes place next month – do please come along and support the students’ efforts. And the Spring Concert will also be taking place this term – if you missed the Christmas Concert last term, you had better get your ticket for this one as I expect it will be standing room only…again! For a list of this season’s sporting fixtures (Football, Netball and Rugby 7s) please do check the website which is easily accessed through the school’s website. Fixtures start in earnest next week against the likes of Sherborne, Beechen Cliff, BSfG and Warminster with the U18 Badminton Team play in the County Finals on Monday - if you can come down for the Home matches it would be wonderful to see you cheering on from the side lines.

The new term is already in full swing and it proves to be a very exciting and busy one – I look forward to seeing many of you at the numerous events that will be happening at School over the coming weeks and months (the much anticipated PSA Quiz is next Friday – more details below). Yesterday, a Year 7 pupil came and sat with a colleague and I at lunch and spoke about their holiday and their future aspirations. I was so impressed with how polite and articulate they were – brimming with excitement about school and the opportunities it offers; it was heartening to see how our students are developing, both in character and confidence and I hope that what we do, day in and day out, makes a difference. Thank you in advance for your continued support and loyalty and I wish you a very successful and prosperous 2017 – let’s hope for more days of Sun!

Friday, 9 December 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 9 December 2016

So the Christmas spirit has finally arrived at Sexey’s this week and it certainly feels likes Christmas now, with the Christmas trees looking splendid, tinsel in the classrooms, carols playing in school and the 6th form taking part in Christmas Jumper Day in support of the school’s various charities. After all it is December and all we need now is some snow…

Yesterday's traditional Christmas Concert was a wonderful occasion and it was a real pleasure to see so many parents and friends of the School in attendance - it was standing room only and the concert highlighted the wealth of talent abundant in the school. This year we were treated to fine performances by the Wind Band, the Strings Group, the Folk Band, Choir and spirited solo performances too – Leanne Baker (I Dreamed a Dream), Princess Ijaola (My Boy Lollipop), Adam Wagstaff (Infant Holy), Toria Ives (Away in a Manger) and Alexandra Macmillan and Jessica Taylor (Silent Night). There were plenty of other stunning performances (far too many to list here) and it was incredible to see the level of engagement, participation and most importantly, the sheer enjoyment of the students which was in so much abundance last night. From Year 7 to the U6, the breadth and depth of musical talent here is strong and the quality of music in a school reflects its ethos, spirit and creativity and I know that under the stewardship of the brilliant Mr Badley (who played more than 5 instruments last night!), music will continue to go from strength to strength at the school. The festive season is well and truly here!

We have just had an absolutely sumptuous Christmas Lunch by Mr Ben Futcher and his team in the KDR which was preceded by another Sexey's Christmas tradition - the Annual House Cross-Country (my thanks to Greg and Elaine Beedle at Gants Mill for their continued support of this brilliant event). The school was awash with students (and a number of colleagues) in their colourful kit and fancy dress running for their Houses and their chosen charities, UNICEF and SANE – from Santa’s Sleigh complete with reindeer to the Sexey’s Swim Team running in just their swim kit, to the ‘Mr Southwood Appreciation Society’ and the Sexey’s Christmas Presents. We also had the Head of School, Victoria Regan and the Head of Boarding Fran Llewellin together with Jess Perry and Rachel Palmer dressed as Santa’s Little Helpers. The PSA were also in fine form tackling the tough course in aid of SANE. Thankfully the weather was kind to us today (though it was perishing and quite soft underfoot after last night’s downpour) but the atmosphere was very warm (as was the hot chocolate) and at times, electric. The camaraderie and support shown by the students for each other, and for colleagues was truly humbling - the students singing the School Song set the tone for the character building morning. Again, it never ceases to amaze me the sheer talent that is in such abundance here and the fervent pride the students have for their Houses (house hockey and rugby matches will be fiercely contested next week and after the holidays), let alone their School. And speaking of talent, we had Ellice Pounder (L6) who participated in the Supadance National Ballroom and Latin Finals in Blackpool last weekend.  In the couples event she managed to get to the quarter finals and came third as part of the ladies team - a tremendous effort by our very own ‘Strictly’ star! I would also like to wish our Oxbridge candidates the very best next week as they travel up to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge having been invited up for interview. They have been preparing feverishly this week and have had tough mock interviews with colleagues who have been putting them through their paces. I am sure this passion for learning both inside and outside of the classroom will continue long into the weekend, when the boarders will be off to Southampton for Christmas shopping and also making preparations for next week’s Feast Night, whilst the Y11 Geographers will be getting ready for their expedition to Snowdonia. We are very privileged to be part of this spirited and warm community. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 2 December 2016

I trust you all enjoyed the extended exeat last weekend. Our equestrian team were competing on the Sunday at the Team and Individual Show Jumping event organised by the South & West Wilts Pony Club and Gretel White (won her class – well done!), Jess Brewer, Iris Anderson, Daniel Meir and Niamh O’Keeffe performed admirably and we are very proud of the team and of their efforts. This Sunday afternoon Niamh O’Keeffe and Georgia Silcox are competing at the Seavington Show Jumping Competition at King’s Sedgemoor – we wish them both all the best. And thank you to all parents who attended the Q&A last Friday on the recent Ofsted Boarding inspection – I hope you were reassured by our plans to move forward and also had a chance to read our new Boarding Newsletter, keeping you up to date with what’s going on in and around our boarding houses.

Earlier this week I opened my mail in my study and I was surprised to find a Christmas Card in November! Firstly, I was surprised at the efficiency of the sender and secondly, it alerted me to the fact that we are just four Fridays away from Christmas. Is it me, or does Christmas seem to be arriving earlier every year?  The John Lewis ad (apparently this signals the start of Christmas), the annual battle of the supermarkets, Black Friday, the Sunday supplements teaching you ‘How to cook the perfect Turkey’ and Christmas trees popping up around the School and in the Boarding Houses. So we are officially in the festive season and this week we have seen a veritable feast of opportunities, which have included County Cross Country Trials at King's School, Bruton, sporting fixtures against All Hallows' and The Blue School, Hockey Area Finals, indoor athletics, the Y7s, 8s, and 9s were treated to a performance of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ by The Quantum Theatre Company from London, PSHE talks to Yrs 10 and 11, Oxbridge interview preparation, code breaking, cake sales in aid of charity and ‘The Great British Brain Bake Off’ (a Psychology Department Production!) which involved a lot of baking, eating and thinking. Food for thought. And alongside all of this, our very own Christmas preparations are underway; I noticed the Christmas decorations coming out of the school attic, the boarders putting up Christmas trees in their boarding houses; preparations are underway for the Christmas Concert next Wednesday – do come along and join in the yuletide festivities; the annual Cross Country event next Friday, Christmas Lunch in the KDR, 6th Form Christmas Jumper Charity Day, the Christmas Shopping Evening on Bruton High Street, Feast Night in the Boarding Houses and of course, the Christmas Carol Service on the last day of term at St Mary’s, Bruton. This will round off the term and put everyone in the Christmas spirit, though some may already be spreading the Christmas cheer at School…

Monday, 14 November 2016

Head Master's Weekly Notes - 11 November 2016

Welcome back after a splendid half term break where I hope you had the opportunity to relax, recuperate and spend quality time with family and friends; we are now back into the rhythms and routine of school life and concentrating on the core business of teaching and learning at Sexey’s.  However, we have been somewhat distracted by the extraordinary events that took place in the US this week – is the American dream alive or has it turned into a complete nightmare?  I am still in shock with the outcome of the most bitter and divisive presidential campaign in living memory and only time will tell if Americans have made the right choice.  I only hope that Donald Trump can 'bind the wounds of division' created by this campaign, bring people together and be a decent president that will represent all Americans. 
With Oxbridge exams and Maths Challenges having already taken place and Y11 Michaelmas Exams next week with Sixth Form assessments following closely behind, the school is a hive of academic learning, as it should be, and I have been impressed with the conscientious approach taken by our Sexeians – I wish all our students the very best in their academic endeavours.  And speaking of endeavours, some of our Y11 and 6th Form students accompanied the School Chaplain Mr Richard Kelley this week on a Young Vocations breakfast visit to meet with none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells.  The breakfast was designed for young people exploring God's calling on their lives, and the Archbishop was excited to hear that the students which included Vicky Sanders, Chloe Thomas, Sophie Couper and Caroline de la Harpe, will be starting a Christian Union at Sexey's.  Another great opportunity for our students.

Whilst we enjoyed our half term, we had a number of Sexeians representing the school at various events and activities over the holiday.  Iris Anderson (Y8) won her class in the NSEA show jumping competition at the Addington Manor County Finals and will now represent Sexey’s and Somerset in the National Finals next year – a tremendous effort!  Our Y10 army cadets, Will and Tim Forster represented the school at the Combat Stress event in Castle Cary which is a Veteran’s mental health charity which supports veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.  My thanks to them and their parents for their continued support.

The three Bruton schools, the Brownies, the Scouts, members of the armed forces and the community will parade through the town On Sunday to pay their respects at the Remembrance Day service at St Mary’s.  It will be a time to remember and commemorate those Brutonians, including those from Sexey’s and King’s, who gave their lives during the Great Wars.  In total 63 Sexeians lost their lives fighting for our country and the School’s Armistice Day service this morning remembered them, with Warrant Officer David Hill present at the service to read the Kohima Prayer.  Our bugler, Faelan Sydenham (L6) did the school proud as he played the Last Post and Reveille respectively (not an easy thing to do) as did the Heads of School and Senior prefects who read out the names of the fallen.  It was a poignant and emotional service and I hope our Sexeians will gain and learn much from this and Sunday’s experience - they are the next generation who I hope will work tirelessly to avoid such conflicts from happening again in the future and will endeavour to continue to bring peace in our world.  We have much to thank the courageous and selfless acts of these young men (some as young as our Y11s) who gave their lives in fighting the Great Wars and other conflicts so that we could enjoy our freedoms today and tomorrow - we will remember them, always.